Top 15 South Asian Role Models

The Top 15 South Asian Role Models was a list first compiled by award winning social worker and author, Alex Sangha, in January 2011 and was published in the Vancouver Observer.

A new list was compiled in June 2015 and published in the Georgia Straight, Huffington Post, Darpan Magazine, and Surrey604.

The Top 15 South Asian Role Models is now released for publication every five years.  The next release date will be sometime in January 2020.

The purpose of the list is fourfold:

  • To educate the broader public about the contributions that South Asian people make to the world.
  • To provide South Asian youth with positive role models so they can feel proud of their culture, heritage, and accomplishments as a community.
  • To showcase the ethno-cultural diversity of South Asia as a subcontinent and its people.  For the purposes of this list South Asia includes people from the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives and their diaspora worldwide.  Afghanistan, Burma, and Tibet may be considered in future Top 15 lists.
  • To challenge the media which may portray overly negative stories of the South Asian community.  This puts visible minorities especially at-risk because there can be a societal backlash and stereotyping.


Nominations and Selection

  • An email is sent out to a broad cross-section of contacts, including many South Asian people, asking for nominations about who should be on the upcoming list.
  • Nominations are solicited from the various social media sites including Facebook.
  • Members of Sher Vancouver which is a social, cultural, and support organization for LGBTQ South Asians and friends are asked to nominate deserving candidates.  Sher Vancouver has over 600 members.
  • Members of Sundar – South Asian Artists Community are asked to nominate deserving candidates.  Sundar has over 15,000 members on Facebook with representation from every country in South Asia.
  • Research is conducted online and in the press to try to determine a short-list of candidates who have had a real impact over the last five years to the South Asian and broader community.
  • The general public are also encouraged to send in nominations.
  • A selection committee of up to five people who are members of Sher Vancouver and Sundar  select the Top 15


Georgia Straight – Top 15 South Asian Role Models for 2015

Vancouver Observer – Top 15 South Asian Role Models for 2011


Send Alex Sangha your recommendations

explaining why your candidate should be on the list to:


Top 15 South Asian Role Models – 2015

  • Waris Ahluwalia is an American designer and actor. He was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Waris is currently based in New York City. He hails from a Sikh family.
  • Aziz Ansari is an American actor and comedian. He was born in Columbia, South Carolina. His family is Tamil Muslim from Tamil Nadu, India.
  • Shabana Azmi is an Indian actress and social and women’s rights activist. She was born in Hyderabad, India. She hails from a Muslim family.
  • Mindy Kaling is an American actress, comedian, and writer. She was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mindy has a Tamil father and a Bengali mother who are both Hindus.
  • Aamir Khan is an Indian actor, producer, director, and screenwriter. He was born in Mumbai, India. Aamir hails from a Muslim family.
  • Shaun Majumder is a Canadian comedian and actor. He was born in Burlington, Newfoundland. Shaun’s mother is European Canadian from Newfoundland and his father is Bengali Hindu from West Bengal, India.
  • Manny Malhotra is a Canadian hockey player with the Montreal Canadians. He was born in Mississauga, Ontario. Manny’s father was born in Lahore, British India (Pakistan) and his mother is French Canadian.
  • Deepa Mehta is a Canadian Oscar-nominated film director and screen writer. She was born in Amritsar, Punjab, India. Deepa was raised in a Hindu family.
  • Michael Ondaatje is a Canadian novelist and poet. He was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Michael is of Burgher ancestry which is a Eurasian ethnic group in Sri Lanka.
  • Russell Peters is a Canadian comedian and actor. He was born in Toronto, Ontario. Russell is Catholic and Ango-Indian descent.
  • Lisa Ray is a Canadian actress, model, and social activist. She was born in Toronto, Ontario. Lisa has a Bengali Hindu father and a Polish mother.
  • Sugar Sammy is a Canadian comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He is from Montreal, Quebec. Sugar is of Punjabi descent. He often uses English, French, Punjabi, and Hindi in his stand-up routine.
  • Vandana Shiva is an Indian environmental activist and anti-globalization author. She was born in Dehradun which is the capital city of the state of Uttarakhand in the northern part of India. Vandana is from a Hindu family.
  • Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani advocate for female education and the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. She was born in the Swat District of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Malala is Pashtun Muslim.
  • Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, and economist. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for pioneering microcredit and microfinance for the poor. He was born in the village of Bathua in Bangladesh. Muhammad is Muslim.

Oh yes and honourable mention goes to the British South Asians from across the pond—Salman RushdieSir Ben KingsleyJay Sean, and Zayn Malik—and of course the American film director, screen writer, and producer who is breaking down barriers in Hollywood, M. Night Shyamalan.

Top 15 South Asian Role Models – 2011

As a honourable mention I would like to include Manmohan Singh, one of India’s best Prime Ministers, and Muhammad Yunus, banker to the poor and Nobel prize winner.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s